Articles

Russia sold its enemy the metal for the greatest spy plane ever

In the ultimate irony of Cold War-era surveillance, one of America's most effective spy planes — and literally the fastest plane ever built — could never have happened without the help of its intended target, the Soviet Union.


Turns out the Americans bought the metal it needed to help the SR-71 Blackbird withstand the temperatures of supersonic travel from its longtime rival Russia. These are just a few of the fun facts the Smithsonian revealed in a recent video on the plane.

The documentary features a tour of the SR-71 at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Former Blackbird pilot Buz Carpenter joins the tour, giving the lowdown on what kept the stealthy plane up in the air. Carpenter flew the SR-71 hundreds of times during its time in service, and he even flew the airplane that now resides at the Smithsonian.

The SR-71 had three nose options: A training nose, a radar nose, and a camera nose capable of taking a 72-mile wide photo. The film in that camera was 5 inches wide and 2 miles long. It had to be processed in 500-foot rolls.

The radar nose wasn't required for navigation. The SR-71 had a pod that read the location of the stars in the sky and, as long as you gave the plane its initial position on the planet, the plane would know where it was anywhere in the world. This was 12 years before the global positioning system was first imagined by the U.S. military.

While the radar nose could assist with avoiding enemy ground fire, the Blackbird's jamming and missile countermeasures usually meant — not to mention its 2,200 miles-per-hour speed — enemy surface-to-air missiles missed by a mile. Literally.

Photo: US Air Force

That top speed meant the average temperature of the plane's skin was upwards of 600 degrees. At that temperature, it couldn't be built with aluminum, so it had to be built with 93 percent titanium – and that titanium came from Russia.

The Russians never knew to whom they were selling the titanium, but they sold enough to build 32 SR-71 Blackbirds — planes used primarily to spy on the Soviet Union. The windows were made of quartz and the plane was built with intentional gaps in the wings and fuselage to account for heat expansion during flight. The airplane grows about 2 inches in width and 4 inches in length because of the frictional heat. The hottest part of the plane could get to 1,200 degrees.

The plane's engines are unique to the Blackbird because no jet engine can absorb supersonic air. So they were specially designed to expand and contract with the airspeed. The extremely high airspeed gave the jet a unique sonic boom as it broke the sound barrier, and the Air Force routinely overflew foreign heads of state to remind them the U.S. could see them.

During the Vietnam War, President Richard Nixon ordered SR-71 pilots to fly over Hanoi and go supersonic to create a sonic boom as a signal to POWs held at the Hanoi Hilton. The booms let the downed pilots in the prison know that if they could escape, Navy SEALs were waiting on the North Vietnamese coast to help them.

Of the 12 Blackbirds rendered unserviceable (none were shot down), four of those came from tire failure. Engineers solved this by cutting the amount of fuel the plane carried during takeoff. A normal mission would see one or two in-flight refuelings. The plane had to refuel every two hours, either in air or on land.

Trump vows to keep the US leading in all things space

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"America will always be the first in space," Trump said in a speech at the White House on June 18, 2018, accompanied by Vice President Mike Pence and the National Space Council advisory body he created in 2017.

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Articles

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Injuries sustained during mine-resistant vehicle training had led to surgeries and functional recovery and it became clear Brown would no longer be able to operate at the level she expected of herself as a Marine.

Like many of the 200,000 service members exiting the military each year, Brown knew her military training could make her a valuable asset as an employee, but she was unsure of how her skills might specifically translate to employment in the civilian world.

Enter Microsoft Software & Systems Academy (MSSA), a program Microsoft started in 2013 to provide transitioning service members and veterans with critical career skills required for today's growing technology industry.

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Why 'grunt graffiti' should be considered an art movement

Art comes in all forms. You can look at a Rembrandt painting and say his mastery of shadows was the antithesis of the Baroque movement that characterized much of 17th-century Europe. You might scoff at a contemporary art piece that, to you, looks like a coffee spill on some printer paper but, according to the artist, "like, totally captures the spirit of America and stuff."

While we can all objectively say that the coffee-stained paper isn't going to be studied by scholars hundreds of years from now, both of these examples are, technically, art. That's because art isn't defined by its quality but rather by the expression of the artist. To quote the American poet Muriel Rukeyser,

"a work of art is one through which the consciousness of the artist is able to give its emotion to anyone who is prepared to receive them. There is no such thing as bad art."

In some senses, Leonardo da Vinci's anatomically correct Vitruvian Man and that giant wang that some infantryman drew in the porta-john in Iraq are more similar than you realize. Not only is a penis central to content of both works — both also fall in line with a given art movement.

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When allied forces man the front lines, it's fairly common to come in contact with local nationals that live in the area. Although the majority of the people you'll encounter out there want nothing to do with international politics, those who are fighting against you will find it easy to blend into their surroundings, remaining undetected. Our nation's enemies don't wear a standardized uniform, making them incredibly tough to safely identify and detain.

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This is the battle behind 'the Star-Spangled Banner'

The Star-Spangled Banner" is known from sea to shining sea, but few know the circumstances under which Francis Scott Key wrote America's national anthem. Oddly enough, it was penned just after the short but bloody Battle of Baltimore.

In September of 1814—two years into the war between the U.K. and the U.S.—the British navy turned its attention towards Baltimore, Maryland. As a busy port, the city would either prove a devastating American loss, or a crucial victory if they managed to thwart the attack on Baltimore Harbor's Fort McHenry.

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This is Russia's airborne combat armored vehicle

Paratroopers are a force to be reckoned with. They can slip far behind enemy lines and wreak havoc against an enemy's support units, making life easier for those in the main assault and striking fear into those who assumed they were safely behind defenses. What's worse (for the enemy), after the initial airborne assault, you're left with the famous "little groups of paratroopers" — small pockets of young men brave enough to jump out of an airplane, all armed to the teeth, ready to defend themselves, and devoid of supervision.

But for as daring and lethal as paratroopers are, they're still, essentially, light infantry once they hit the ground. Light infantry can do a lot of things, but when they're tasked with hitting prepared positions or facing off against enemy tanks, they tend to take heavy casualties.

So, how do you reinforce troops that drop from the sky? You drop armor out of the sky, too.

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3 gifts you get from having military parents

Who knew that folding clothes the "navy way" and putting on sheets so tight that you could bounce a quarter off of them would have such a profound affect on my life.

I grew up in Virginia Beach, where most students came from military families and knew what it was like to have military parents. They knew the struggle of parents who had to leave for months at a time, the amount of discipline that was applied to daily chores and homework, and of course the expectation to succeed at anything you do.

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